627932d9053b7b4533719e10 Claire Muselman

Is it Time for Work Comp Leaders to Embrace Vulnerability?

27 Feb, 2023 Claire Muselman

627932d9053b7b4533719e10 Claire Muselman
                               Spoiler alert to the question in the title. Is it time for workers' compensation leaders to embrace vulnerability? Well, it is 2023, and the answer is purely and shamelessly… YES! Vulnerability in workers' compensation from the claims administrative side is unique. With metrics, data, audits, and compliance at the forefront of leading minds, adding vulnerability can be an afterthought or last consideration. Changing this mindset to prioritizing it is not what has occurred historically and can be uncomfortable for many reasons. We have all heard the word vulnerable as a synonym for weak and its affiliation with shame. Historically, the lens through which we once saw vulnerability created a means for the strength to overpower the weak, taking the moments or pieces of someone’s vulnerability and using it for damage, power, and control. Until more recently, many people reference vulnerability as if it is a kink in someone's armor like there is a weakness for one to take advantage. Strange concept … or is it? Taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable space is how many injured workers feel about the workers' compensation process and how many claims adjusters think about their work organizations. Let us be inclusive of organizations in which claims adjusters represent, as well as many, myself included, who have represented organizations that choose to prey on those in their times of need. The leadership in workers’ compensation claims administration can and should view vulnerability differently because it can be highly beneficial. At this point of the talent epidemic, it has become a force, not simply a 'nice-to-have.' The workers’ compensation industry has been viewed with a hardened lens, seeing statutes and regulations as a way of life rather than building blocks to cultivate change. The hardened lens is perpetuated by claims leadership focusing on metrics surrounding claims in, claims out, closing ratios, audit numbers, and litigation values. Our key performance indicators have not yet transitioned to an empathic workers' recovery model, showing the satisfaction of outcomes from medical, claims adjudication, and organizational handling of the process… and these are the areas of focus with the most life impact. How would we even begin to start with this? With leadership taking the next step and leading by example. Did you know that being consciously vulnerable can help your productivity and your mental health, and even help you as a leader and, in turn, benefit your entire team? In a Harvard Business Review article by Janet Omadeke published July 23, 2022, she identifies two ways we can think about this to break down how to be a more vulnerable leader: “how to be vulnerable at work” and “leading by example.” How to be “vulnerable at work” {Omadeke challenges leadership to not treat vulnerability as a skill but rather as a personal choice. The idea of vulnerability as a personal choice rings notably true in workers' compensation, showcasing that it is up to the claims leadership to execute on individual preference and empowers adjusting teams who truly have oversight over injured workers to do the same. Omadeke shares the importance of frequent check-ins with ourselves, asking, “Will being honest at the moment serve me? Will it serve others?” By doing this, leaders can identify how they are feeling which will a more balanced leadership style. As communication gets more straightforward and less formal in our workplaces, and we continue to improve the complex language needed for understanding workers' compensation, the needs of claims adjusters pull at one another. It is best to openly explain why you may feel specific ways or need certain things to best work in a team. As Simon Sinek identified many years ago, starting with the why is an essential and imperative tool to secure buy-in regardless of position. Explaining the why first in communication with claims adjusters and with injured workers can go a long way, especially when the communication is consumable for the recipient. The second step identified by Omadeke, “leading by example” is broken up into two subcategories: being honest with your struggles and doing the difficult thing even when others are hesitant. As a leader, you should share your struggles and road bumps with those who report to you. Trying new things in the workers' compensation space is hard because we have an embedded culture of we have always done it this way and still yet to have an external force push the needle forward making the needed change have to occur. Trying new ideas may be successful and may also yield failure. What leaders sometimes avoid recognizing is that failure is not only a first attempt at learning, but you can still make progress by cultivating needed change. When claims leaders share some of the struggles and road bumps they face, this can create a more balanced work dynamic and help your team with vulnerability. Sharing these moments can build camaraderie and remind team members of the purpose behind the claims adjusters' positions. The second subsection from Omadeke’s suggestion of “leading by example” is to share with leaders that vulnerability is also about standing up for your values even when it is difficult. Organizations have mission statements, vision statements, and values in which they operate… or so they state. We do as leaders as well. In a perfect world, we have each selected organization with whose mission and vision we stand behind and whose values are like our own—staying true to our compass through strength in our values builds character and can shape culture through leading by example. Staying true to our values can communicate to claims teams that they have the license to do so, which can help them be happier adjusters and assist in their work-life balance. We are all people operating in a system designed to restore the livelihood of injured human beings. We are here to restore and revive to help those injured at work return to being functional, contributing members of society. We should also understand that we are all humans within this space, trying to make the world better than the day before, improving the lives of one injured person at a time. Pausing to be more human and more vulnerable and refocusing our metrics to yield outcomes more impactful than closures is a necessity about to turn into a demand. Those who embrace this concept will find themselves embarking on a journey most have failed to embrace with team members who feel fulfilled in their roles of making good things happen for injured workers. The call to action is now. Dr. Claire Muselman is a workers' compensation thought leader and professor at Drake University, focused on driving meaningful outcomes for claims professionals and injured workers everywhere. Kai Harrington is a Senior at Drake University majoring in Marketing and Economics, graduating this Spring. Source Referenced Omadeke, Janice. “The Best Leaders Aren't Afraid to Be Vulnerable.” Harvard Business Review, 23 July 2022.

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    About The Author

    • Claire Muselman

      Meet Dr. Claire C. Muselman, the Chief Operating Officer at WorkersCompensation.com, where she blends her vast academic insight and professional innovation with a uniquely positive energy. As the President of DCM, Dr. Muselman is renowned for her dynamic approach that reshapes and energizes the workers' compensation industry. Dr. Muselman's academic credentials are as remarkable as her professional achievements. Holding a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, she specializes in employee engagement, human behavior, and the science of leadership. Her diverse background in educational leadership, public policy, political science, and dance epitomizes a multifaceted approach to leadership and learning. At Drake University, Dr. Muselman excels as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program. Her passion for teaching and commitment to innovative pedagogy demonstrate her dedication to cultivating future leaders in management, leadership, and business strategy. In the industry, Dr. Muselman actively contributes as an Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation and plays key roles in organizations such as Kids Chance of Iowa, WorkCompBlitz, and the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, underscoring her leadership and advocacy in workers’ compensation. A highly sought-after speaker, Dr. Muselman inspires professionals with her engaging talks on leadership, self-development, and risk management. Her philosophy of empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of her message, encouraging innovation and progressive change in the industry. "Empowerment is key to progress. By nurturing today's professionals with empathy and intelligence, we're crafting tomorrow's leaders." - Dr. Claire C. Muselman

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